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County enlists help to spot structural improvements

Both the Hubbard County Assessor's Department and Environmental Services Office will utilitize a program, called ChangeFinder, that detects new structures on a tax parcel. (Image courtesy of EagleView)

Upon Hubbard County Assessor Ginger Woodrum's recommendation, the county board agreed to purchase a $9,975 program called ChangeFinder.

Woodrum said it will help both the county assessor's department and environmental services office (ESO) detect new structures that have not received proper permitting or old buildings that have been razed.

To identify building footprint changes, the county chose Pictometry imagery and the ChangeFinder solution from EagleView, a corporation headquartered in Washington state.

"I think this will really save the county money," she said. "We find out about these structures regardless, whether we have ChangeFinder or not, but sometimes it takes us five, 10 years to find them. In the meantime, there's unequal assessments out there. If your neighbor has constructed something and we missed a 30-by-40 pole building or this pool, for instance, how is that fair to the neighboring taxpayers that have to foot the bill and they're not paying their fair share? From an assessor's point-of-view, it's an equality thing."

Board chair Cal Johannsen asked if ChangeFinder would help discover shoreline violations and the like.

"Very much so. It would ensure that those that aren't currently obtaining permits would need to," replied ESO Officer Eric Buitenwerf.

In the first phase, ChangeFinder creates outlines around current buildings from available Pictometry imagery. After a flyover, scheduled for spring 2020, the second image will be compared to the first. Any additions, demolitions, or other property feature changes will be outlined and a digital parcel file is provided to the county.

Structures of 150 square feet or larger are targeted by the ChangeFinder process, such as residential, commercial and industrial buildings; isolated garages, mobile homes, sheds, greenhouses or silos, trailer boxes with windows or doors; buildings under construction and other features with a roof. Attached decks or porches that have a roof or railing are also noted.

Vehicles, boats, docks, paved areas, steel or cell phone towers, storage tanks, water towers, temporary tents and billboards are not targeted by ChangeFinder.

Pictometry flyovers are typically done once every three years, Woodrum said.

The county board approved a one-year contract with EagleView for ChangeFinder.